The Diamondbacks signed Merrill Kelly after Kelly spent four years in the Korea Baseball Organization. I never heard of Kelly until the signing some it’s time to put together a profile for him.
First, here’s a tweet from Homin on Kelly’s profile:
KBO season ended. Merrill Kelly, former #rays prospect will play MLB next year. 92-94 mph FB, cutter, two-seam, CH, CV. Various pitches. No plus pitch, but reliable pitcher. Could be good long RP at mlb level. #rays are scouting him heavily.
— Homin (@Homein22) November 13, 2018
Next, the MLB.com signing article on him had some nice nuggets.
Kelly has never pitched in the Majors, but he drew significant interest from multiple clubs this offseason after a successful four-year stint in the Korea Baseball Organization, which is known to be hitter-friendly. In that stretch, Kelly was 48-32 with a 3.86 ERA, 641 strikeouts and 206 walks in 119 games, including 118 starts.
And here is a pitch description from the same article:
When he initially signed in Korea in 2015, Kelly said he envisioned staying a year, maybe two, making some money and then returning to America. He ended up staying four, and in the process, he transformed himself from a low arm slot pitcher who relied on an 88-90 mph two-seam fastball to one that throws harder and with an expanded repertoire.
“I don’t know what my highest velocity last year was, but I know it’s been up to 97,” Kelly said. “The changeup kind of complements that along with the development of the curveball over there. I think it’s made a big difference.”
Finally, Sir Szymborski was able to provide me with his MLE from the past three seasons.
And the projections for the next two seasons.
And matching up the 2019 projection to pitchers with similar 2019 Steamer projections, I ended up with:
The comps match the scouting profile. Low mid-90’s fastball with no outstanding breaking pitches. I’d at least take a reserve round pick on to see if there is more but would move on if better options materialize.
Previously, I focused a couple articles on which pitchers could see a talent boost with a change in scenery and new pitch mix (Part 1 and Part 2). I decided to look at the five starters not tendered starters. I listed them in the order I see a change helping them the most.
I really like the potential for Sampson and Shoemaker to provide positive value. I know both have had injury and result issues, but the Rangers and Angels are desperate for pitching that it was weird to see them let go. Either both have something early messed up with their medicals, the Rangers and Angels don’t know what they are doing, or both.
Owners need to keep an eye on him where he signs. While he’s had an extensive injury history, his arsenal could be refined by dropping a historical horrible sinker, and just go with 4-seamer (7% SwStr%, 23% GB%), splitter (21% SwStr%, 51% GB%), and slider (16% SwStr%, 45% GB%). He a test case for consolidate and dominate … if healthy.
Some team is going to jump all over Sampson in the hopes of “fixing” him. Here’s how his pitches performed in the 23 innings of work this year.
I could see a team limit the anemic four-seam to a usage under 50%. Or just not throw it and just go with the cutter. He needs to push his strikeout rate over 6 K/9 and I feel is a possibility if the fastball is gone. He’s a nice sleeper in deeper leagues like 50-player draft-and-holds.
There are some positive signs, especially on the batted ball front. His cutter and four-seam are on the extreme pop-up side and his changeup and curve are worm killers. Besides the four-seamer (10% SwStr%), none of his pitches generate an above-average amount of swing-and-miss. He just doesn’t have that one out pitch. If he can find one, I’d be all in.
There are just small sample sizes everywhere with him with horrible results. Owners need to ignore him on draft day and then acquire if he throws well in the majors.
Recovering from Tommy John Surgery.
Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.